Ogiek Peoples' Development Program (OPDP) in collaboration with ZanaAfrica Foundation has managed to support approximately 1,500 teenage girls in both primary and secondary schools with sanitary towels and underpants through a partnership program instituted under Girl Empowerment Project.
The partnership which started in April, 2015 has benefited the less privileged pupils and students in a total of 12 schools in the Eastern Mau region.
The Girl Empowerment Project is anchored on OPDP's overall program of Gender and Youth Empowerment provided for in its 2016-20 Strategic Plan, the blueprint of its broader activities.
The project seeks to improve the sexual and reproductive health of in-school adolescents (aged 10-20). The project has a special focus on young girls who are more vulnerable and are at risk of HIV infections, teenage pregnancy, FGM, early marriages and have limited access to comprehensive sexuality education.
Studies have shown that girls miss up to seven weeks of study time out of the school calendar, a problem that has been linked to lost concentration thereby affecting their overall performance.
Eunice Ndung’u, OPDP’s Finance and Administration officer who has been overseeing implementation of the Partnership Program said management of benefiting schools has been supportive and grateful for the distribution of the sanitary towels.
“A lot of the girls missed classes during their menstruation days as they didn’t have sanitary towels to use and hence preferred to stay home throughout the three to five days period time,” said Ndung’u.
She said OPDP was devoted to preventing teenage pregnancies among the Ogiek girls and motivate them to pursue higher education.
“Most girls as young as 11 years are impregnated by elderly men who promise them material things such as the pads; not forgetting that this also exposes them to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids,” she said.
“When this problem is eliminated, we bring the girls closer to achieving their dreams of ascending the education ladder,” she added.
The initiative incorporated educating the girls on menstrual hygiene and molding their self-esteem.
“We have realized that the girls’ confidence was built after we held interactive and participatory sessions with them,” she said.
“We allow them to freely express themselves before the rest, brainstorm, ask and respond to questions. This enables them to activate their minds and think through the challenges they face as girls and come up with their own solutions,” she said.
In order to ensure consistent support to the initiative, OPDP has held meetings with the schools’ management to review the progress made and will continue to follow up with consultations in that regard.